Infrastructure Nigeria By Gilbert Chike Obiefuna

Getting Nigeria out of Recession With Bankable Infrastructure

In the typical Nigerian context, infrastructure means different things to different people, hence the recurring disconnect in approach and attainment. In fact, infrastructure is not taught as a subject in any school. Indeed, infrastructure is conceptualized and envisioned by a rare capacity of developing linkage thinking now globally referred to as “design thinking

As an opening shot, let us recall the Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP), released by the Federal Government to govern the use of the 2016 budget funds. At the launch, the Federal Government explained that the SIP would be a compendium of high-level interventions that it would initiate in the fiscal year 2016.
According to the Federal Government "The SIP has been put together by the Ministry of Budget & National Planning, and the Economic Management Team under the leadership of Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo to be both a source of information on government priorities for 2016, as well as a means of tracking progress".

SIP assembled the Budget Interventions, and Fiscal, Monetary, Trade and Investment Policy Reforms to reflate and reposition the Economy.

It also outlined more than 30 Specific, Measurable Priority Actions to be completed across 6 Strategic Intervention Areas,”

The No. 3 of the 6-No. Intervention Areas was – “Critical Infrastructure (Power, Rails, Roads, and Housing):
• Optimize the 7,000MW Installed Capacity by completing ongoing infrastructure projects in generation and transmission, and gas, and ensuring tariff reflects all costs;
• Privatise the NIPP Plants;
• Complete 186.5km Kaduna – Abuja, and 328km Itakpe – Ajaokuta – Warri Rail Lines, and complete negotiations for Calabar – Lagos Railway;
• Commence construction of new (standard-gauge) Lagos – Kano Rail Line;
• Commence construction of new Rail Line connecting Abuja to Ajaokuta;
• Complete Rehabilitation of Abuja, Kano, Lagos, and Port Harcourt Airports, and explore concessioning options;
• Concession 2nd Niger Bridge;
• Dualize Sections of 1-5 of Kano – Maiduguri Road;
• Rehabilitate Enugu – Port Harcourt; Odukpani – Itu – Ikot Ekpene; Ilorin – Jebba – Mokwa – Bokani; and Apapa – Oshodi – Oworoshoki Roads;
• Construct 3,552 Mixed Housing Units as Pilot Schemes in each of 36 States and Abuja, under the National Housing Project.

How we have fared on the above scheme, is left to our individual conjectures. However, it is obvious that more could have been achieved if responsible entities had been working in a more coordinated and integrative manner.
Once again last December, the Federal Government, through the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun announced a 10-point fiscal roadmap designed to stimulate the economy and set it on the path of recovery and growth. However, in this paper, our attention is on Point-2 of the roadmap - to mobilise private capital to complement Government spending on infrastructure, to expand the provision of infrastructure.

As laudable as the intention of the Federal Government may appear, achieving any remarkable improvement in infrastructure projects design and delivery will take a major reorientation and reformation of policy makers and implementing MDAs. For now, national infrastructure projects in Nigeria are designed and executed by stand-alone MDAs who do not inter-relate in any meaningful way, nor build on earlier programmes to establish verifiable and integrative projects.

Globally, Infrastructure is being proposed as the engine that can drive growth and wealth. But for us in Nigeria to fuel that engine we have to appreciate the need to grow the strong capacities and understanding for the challenges inherent in both the design and procurement of infrastructure, hence the imperative of a new approach hereby canvassed.
Infrastructure suffers its worst injury when, as has been the tradition, its bits and pieces such as roads, bridges, water supply, power, ICT, transport, schools, healthcare, etc are taken up independently, one from the other. This chronic fragmentation extends its havoc to professional disciplines where professionals define and design “their own” aspects of infrastructure without giving a hoot to others’ concerns. This disconnected, disjointed, “silos”- approach has resulted in the rash of “stalled”, “uncompleted”, “failed”, “abandoned”, “hanging”, “stranded”, “bridges-to-nowhere”, “white-elephant” projects dotting the national economic space, bringing a trail of woeful tales of huge losses to the country.

It has not occurred to many people that a road, power plant, bridge, hospital, water scheme, rail line, airport, port, etc standing alone is really not infrastructure!

Until there is an active linkage of say, city - road – railway – seaport – airport, or power plant – transmission line - consumer, etc, there is not yet infrastructure per-se.

At present, among the global community, there are indications that the above discordant state of affairs is being addressed, and that the silos are gradually being dismantled. However, much still remains to be done for infrastructure to emerge as a holistic, unified programme of activities and projects capable of sustaining the entire spectrum of socio-economic life of a people – to transit “from chaos to cosmos” - to attain the new global trend of Infrastructure Universe. 

...to be continued.

Mr. Gilbert Obiefuna is the National Secretary, Nigeria Infrastructure Development Association, NIDA

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